One of the most important things we can do in our walk with God is to study the scriptures. Growing deeper in God’s Word helps us to grow closer to God. It helps build our faith and helps us to have wisdom. It helps us to make proper judgments based on the way God sees things. It helps us to witness to others and defend the faith.
Studying the scriptures gives us the knowledge do the work of God.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Another reason to study the scriptures is so that we can be ready to give an answer to others.
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
The Bible itself tells us to study the scriptures.
John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Studying the scriptures gives us the knowledge to contend for the faith.
Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
Bible study is different from Bible reading. We must read the Bible with an open heart and mind, and then we must dig deeper into God’s word and study. Studying the Bible allows us to grow in the Word of God. It opens our understanding. It allows us to hide the Word in our hearts. Studying the Bible is one of the best ways to memorize scripture.
Good Bible study comes from good habits. We must make a habit of focusing on our Bible study by using a systematic study that works for us. We must devote our time and attention to Bible study. Bible study should always start with prayer. Study the Bible as a treasure hunter. Dig because you know there’s something to be found.
Our Bible study can be made more effective by using a structured study method. There are many Bible study methods. It is best to use more than one study method.
No matter which study method is used, there are several rules that should always be followed.
- Start with prayer. Ask God to lead and guide you through your Bible study and to open your understanding.
- Keep everything in its proper context. I’ve been to seminars where the preacher used a piece of one verse and added it to a piece of another in order to build his doctrine. Both verses were taken out of context. All interpretations must be built on scripture in its proper context.
- No one scripture is of its own private interpretation. Our interpretation of a verse or passage should not contradict another verse or passage. Allow scripture to interpret scripture.
- Don’t look for hidden meanings. Many times we try to make a verse say something it doesn’t really say just because we think there’s a hidden meaning within the passage. Use the obvious and clear reading of a text. Don’t read between the lines, and don’t read something into it that’s not there. A verse can have many applications, but it usually has just one meaning. There are a few cases where Paul will use a verse from the Old Testament in a different way than it was intended in order to teach a point. This shows that the original passage could have more than one application, but its original meaning still stands. Looking for something hidden can be more of a distraction than a help, and it does not build strong doctrine.
Good Bible study relies on good study tools. Study tools help in word studies and can give information about the cultures and people of the time. Study tools can be helpful no matter which Bible study method you use. Even other translations can be good study tools. The same seminar where a preacher took verses out of context, the preacher also said we had to use the King James Version only. He said this because of a word in Acts chapter 2 that made it seem that only the men spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost. In the original Greek, the word was neuter, meaning that it referred to mankind in general- not man specifically. Reading the verse in Greek or any other translation will show this point.
Tools to use include:
- Original languages
- Topical lists
- Other translations
- Study Bibles
- Wide margin Bible
All of these tools can be found as software on the Internet for free or purchased in book form.
Topical study is the art of taking a specific topic and following that topic throughout the Bible. Topics usually get broken into many subtopics. For example, the topic of salvation includes the subtopics of believing, faith, repentance, baptism in Jesus name, the infilling of the Holy Ghost, and obedience. And that’s only getting started. A concordance will be indispensible for topical study. Simply open a good concordance, such as Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and look up the topic you want to study. Another method would be to search the topic online or in Bible Software. The only problem is that the only verses you will find are the verses that contain the exact words you’re looking for. Another good source would be a topical Bible, such as Thompson Chain Reference, Naves Topical Bible, or the Duggan Topical Study Bible (currently out of print but occasionally found on eBay).
Inductive study is the art of working with the scriptures through writing and marking. There are many methods of inductive study (including my own). Inductive methods usually include asking questions about a passage, marking the passage, and applying the passage to your life. Inductive study also includes marking the scriptures and identifying key points and topics. It is helpful to link key words with their subject. Marking methods include:
- Color coding
- Drawing symbols
- Making marginal notes
- Writing outlines
- Making lists
- Linking texts and phrases
Book study is studying a specific book through its entirety to glean the most from it. Elements of book study include making outlines, listing characters, listing events, and determining key verses.
Chapter study includes much of the same study methods as book study but is more specific than book study because it digs deeper into a specific chapter. Chapter study seeks to answer specific questions about the chapter including key characters, key events, and key verses. Chapter study identifies key topics and passages, and key components such as parables and prayer.
Most study methods eventually lead to word study. While studying or reading the scriptures you will often come across a word that you want to know more about. For example, John 1:1 talks about the Word being with God. Doing a word study by going to a Greek dictionary would give a deeper understanding of the original word used, which is Logos. Dictionaries and lexicons are helpful in word studies.
Biographies, or character studies, is when you search the scriptures to find everything you can about a specific person. Biographical studies help us to better understand situations and cultures in the Bible. It helps us to see what others have gone through so we can have guidance and comfort through our own situations.
Always apply what you’ve learned to your life. Ask yourself questions. Determine how situations apply to you. Are you doing something similar to the people you just read about? Are you in a similar situation? Looking into the scriptures and applying them to your life is one way to do a self-examination. It is like looking into a mirror to examine what we see. We must apply the scriptures to our lives and let scripture lead, mold, and shape us. Hiding the Word of God in our hearts and growing in His truth will help us to have a closer walk with God.
My Study Methods
Generally, I inductively study the Bible topically. Once I choose a topic to study I like to use a topical study tool, such as a Thompson Chain Reference, a topical list, or a search feature in Bible software, and study through that topic one passage at a time. Once I get to the first passage I mark that passage inductively using a color code and marking system that works for me. This allows me to work with the scriptures, which opens up my understanding and helps me to memorize scriptures. I then go to the next passage. I will usually mark the next passage in the margin so I have a topical chain. Most of the time the topic name is already written in the margin of my Thompson, so I simply highlight the topic name and reference in its proper topical color. I also like to teach and write about each topic or passage. I learn more and memorize easier by teaching, talking, and writing. This is why I write.
Bible reading and study go hand-in-hand. One supports the other. Strive to read and study the scriptures daily. By studying the scriptures and hiding them in our hearts, we grow closer to God.
Isaiah 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
Isaiah 28:13 But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
2 Timothy 3:14-17 14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
There are many other methods for effective Bible study. This list is not exhaustive. The key point is to just start. Start to study the Bible today. Don’t wait. Start reading and start studying. Try different methods. See what works for you. Take your time and let it soak in. It’s not a contest. Dig into the Word of God and let it speak to you. Meditate on God’s Word and keep God in your mind. This will help you fight temptation, just as Jesus did in the wilderness, and help you grow in your walk with God.